Monday, August 13, 2007

Computers: Don't Rely on Them

This story, from yesterday's Sunday Times, is really rather worrying.

A SERVICE offering a complete “revenge package” in which people can destroy the financial status and relationships of their enemies at the click of a mouse is being offered over the internet.

For as little as £10 a month ...
However, it is really symptomatic of two age-old problems with computers. The first is "garbage-in, garbage-out" - no matter how good your credit rating or fraud detection algorithms are (and how competently they are implemented), if your basic data (number, frequency and value of credit applications) can be corrupted, modified or otherwise interfered with, your "decision" is meaningless.

Also, the blind faith people (or processes designed by people) seem to have in the correctness of what the bloody machine is spewing forth. Many years ago, people were reminded that all computers were called Tom (Totally Obedient Moron) - if you tell a computer to delete all your data, it will (although now, sometimes, they will ask if you really mean it).

There is the same blinkered pointlessness in the computer sorting of job applications. For example, many security jobs require people to hold the CISSP qualification and applications without it will not even get to be reviewed by an HR drone, never mind an actual human. Why? Because somebody, almost certainly an idiot, decided that holding the CISSP (however long ago gained) was a sufficient demonstration of certain knowledge or skills. It may just about demonstrate a degree of knowledge but like the vast majority of qualifications (including academic ones), does nothing for skill. This is exactly the same as credit score equalling intention and ability to repay a loan. It might indicate, to a degree, ability. But intention?

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